Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $2,000,000)
In June 2021, Baltimore City launched the Behavioral Health 911 Diversion Pilot Program with the goal of diverting certain mental health-related 911 calls from law enforcement to experienced mental health professionals through the Here2Help hotline. The program is housed within the city’s emergency response network and was implemented in partnership with Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB) and Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. (BCRI). The Here2Help hotline is available 24/7, 365 days a year and is staffed by mental health clinicians who provide mental health assistance via telephone through de-escalation, crisis aid, and referrals to additional resources. Mobile crisis teams can also be dispatched to provide in-person aid should the BCRI clinician determine that response is necessary.
The central mission of this pilot program is to match individuals to the most appropriate and available resource when they call for assistance through reducing unnecessary police encounters with people in behavioral crisis. To be eligible for diversion in this pilot an individual must be 18 years of age or older and classified as one of the selected behavioral health call types. Baltimore plans to expand the current pilot to have a non-police response to more behavioral health calls that come in through 911 by: (1) adding children and youth under the age of 18 as eligible for diversion by funding a youth specific mobile crisis provider, and (2) co-locating a behavioral health clinician in the 9-1-1 call center to support 911 call takers in de-escalating crises and conducting screening to determine the most appropriate response.
Diverting calls that come in through 911 that do not necessitate a police response to a nonpolice behavioral health or crisis response will benefit everyone with these identified outcomes and best practices:
community-based, people-centered, trauma-informed response that promotes an individuals’ dignity, autonomy, self-determination, and resiliency,
harm reduction model,
lower cost response to non-criminal, non-violent emergency calls,
a more appropriate response which connects residents with services,
transport to services needed in a behavioral health crisis - removing a frequent barrier to services,
uncoupling medical crisis from unnecessary police contact, decriminalizes mental illness and behavioral health crises, and
improve police/community relationships by reducing negative interactions.